Five foods of Madrid
Every year, six million travellers make their way to Madrid to experience its many delights – not least the warm weather and sunny skies that’s mostly found in the Spanish capital. In between attractions like Grand Via, the Royal Palace and Retiro Park, there’s a distinct joy in taking a break to enjoy the sangria, cava and tapas the country is famous for.
In restaurant-heavy areas like Barrio de Las Letras and Conde Duque, there are quirks specific to Madrid. It doesn’t always follow the Catalonian influence found in the rest of Spain and nor is it as seafood-dominant as the coastal areas.
Instead they have popular dishes that together, make a distinctly Madrileño experience. Here’s what you’ll find plenty of within its tapas bars and eateries.
In most Spanish supermarkets, foreign eyes are captivated by the large legs of ham dangling down in all their cured glory. Made from acorn-fed Iberian pigs that roam freely around the border of Spain and Portugal, their premium taste and texture has proved a particular hit in Madrid, where it’s found as translucently thin slices served with other meats, cheeses, bread and oil, in every tapas bar. Legs given the Jamón Ibérico stamp of approval will always be of high quality, though they do go up to £100 a kg. Try specialist jamonerías to find the nicest at the best value – Mercado Jamón Ibérico is a destination restaurant for ham fans.
Bocadillo de Calamares
A curious dish found in plenty of places in Madrid but not so much in the rest of Spain, Bocadillo de Calamares is a roll made of deep-fried calamari. While there are variations between establishments, diners can be guaranteed fresh, soft bread with crunchy, breadcrumb-coated squid in its centre. Eat it sitting down at a restaurant with a small beer, or do as locals do and try it as street food. They’re around £3 at Bar La Campana, off Plaza Mayor. There’s always a queue, which is a great sign of top-notch Bocadillo de Calamares.
Callos a la Madrileña
Translated to ‘Madrid-style tripe’, this local dish dates back centuries, when every part of a meat carcass was used to make it go further. Nutritious, comforting and hearty, it’s no wonder it caught on and found its feet (pun intended) in the 19th century when other types of tripe made way to Madrid’s version: slow cooked in meat broth with chorizo, blood sausage, in a sauce made of paprika, tomato sauce and garlic. Now, it’s this version of the stew that’s tweaked: Catalonians add more beans, the coastal regions add seafood, and elsewhere, the blood sausage may be replaced by local sausages.
A dish better suited to British tastes is huevos rotos, which translates to broken eggs. While the generic version is olive-oil fried eggs with broken yolks on a plate of French fries, Madrid’s version goes one step further. As well as a gloopy egg on top of the fries, it’s sprinkled with meaty goodness, whether that’s ham, bacon or sausage. It sounds like an alternate version of brunch to us, but that’s no complaint. The most famous place to serve this dish is Casa Lucio, but it’s so popular that most places include it on their menu, and the best version is dependent completely on individual tastes – so sample it across the city!
The trademark ridged curl of churros is a sight everyone appreciates. Those who usually aren’t fond of fried desserts appreciate its light texture; those who love chocolate can’t get enough of the dunking sauce, and those who dislike chocolate need only skim the dip before taking a bite of the crispy sweet dough. In Madrid, churros are everywhere, from restaurants to specialist chocolate cafes. Try Chocolatería Valor for a typical taste: Valor is popular brand of chocolate in Spain, and its cafes serve churros with a thick, melted hot chocolate that tastes divine. It’s an indulgence you won’t regret.
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